Thought for the Week 20 - 2nd August 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

(20)   2nd August                  Acts 13:1-12     Set apart for me …

Our Bible passage in focus this week is Acts 13:1-12.

Throughout the whole of May we dipped into the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in our ‘Thought for the week’ as we reflected, among other things, on the first ‘Christian’ Pentecost.

We then looked at the growth of this early church and saw how opposition arose and developed even to the point of the stoning of Stephen.

We then turned back to Acts in July and among other things we noted the conversion of Saul of Tarsus the great persecutor of the church.

In between that, in June we turned our attention to some of the teaching that came from the former persecutor, now known as Paul the Apostle, in his letter to the Romans.

This week and next week, we look again at the Book of Acts as we note the change of emphasis as the Book of Acts now focuses on the life of Paul and his missionary journeys.

Chapter 13 marks a turning point in Acts. - the first 12 chapters focus largely on Peter; the remaining chapters revolve around Paul.

Before we begin today’s study we will have a prayer together and a song to reflect upon.

Prayer

God our Father, you have welcomed each one of us in Jesus Christ and called us to be your body in this place.

As we look towards ending the period of ‘lockdown’ and move back into times of corporate worship, we pray that You will send us Your Holy Spirit at this time of uncertainty and change.

Help us to deal with anything within our group as members of Your church that hinders our working together for Your glory.

Bless us as we share the ‘Thought for the week’ and in our prayerful concern for our fellow church members.

We pray especially for any who might be feeling a real sense of sadness at this time – we pray that You will surround them with Your love and sustain them.

Help us to encourage each other in whatever way we can.

Fill us with Your vision, energy and faithfulness during this Interregnum, that we may be true to our calling to bring new life to our community.

Guide with your heavenly wisdom those who in your name are to choose a new incumbent for this benefice.

We pray that our new incumbent may be a wise and gentle shepherd of your people: ready to serve among us with joy, to build us up in faith and to lead us by example in loving obedience to your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

We now have a song that is a favourite for many.

For those of us in church we can sit and listen to it and allow it to speak to us as we reflect upon it.

For those at home, you can sing it to your hearts content.

Song              Be still, for the presence of the Lord

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here;

come bow before Him now

with reverence and fear:

in Him no sin is found -

we stand on holy ground.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here.

 

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around;

He burns with holy fire,

with splendour He is crowned:

how awesome is the sight -

our radiant King of light!

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around.

 

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place:

He comes to cleanse and heal,

to minister His grace -

no work too hard for Him.

In faith receive from Him.

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place.

During our earlier studies, in Acts11:22, we saw the person of Barnabas and we reflected how this ‘giver of encouragement’ lived out his nickname.

He was the first to hold out a hand of welcome to the recently converted Saul of Tarsus as he introduced him into the church at Antioch.

With Peter, the emphasis is the Jewish church in Jerusalem and Judea; with Paul, the focus is the spread of the Gentile church throughout the Roman world, which began at the church in Antioch.

It was here in Antioch that the believers fist became known as ‘Christians’, (Acts 11:26) and this church had a very real focus on missionary concern of outreach to the wider world.

The word ‘Christian’ is so badly mis-understood these days both in the world in general and even within the church, and it can mean almost anything.

The way the word is used often does not have that sharp edge of being ‘those who are born again and know and love the Lord as Saviour and who want to see His name honoured and spread throughout the world’.

We need to be sure that we are clear in our own minds what being a ‘Christian’ really means in our ‘walk’, our ‘talk’ and in the way we live and behave with others.

Within the ministry and leadership of the early church there were those who were called ‘prophets’ and they had a significant role and we can see something of that here in this Antioch church.

Luke listed five different men who were ministering in the church in Antioch:

  1. Barnabas, whom we have already met (Acts 4:36–37; 9:27; 11:22–26);
  2. Simeon,
  3. Lucius, who came from Cyrene and may have been one of the founders of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:20);
  4. Manaen, who was an intimate friend (or perhaps an adopted foster brother) of Herod Antipas, who had killed John the Baptist; and
  5. Saul (Paul), last on the list but soon to become first.

These men were serving as “prophets and teachers” in a local church.

The prophets helped lay the foundation for the church as they proclaimed the Word of God and as teachers, they helped to ground the converts in the doctrines of the faith (2 Tim. 2:2)

They were preachers of God’s Word and were responsible in the early years of the church to instruct local congregations.

On some occasions, they also received ‘a word from God’ that was of a practical nature (see Acts 11:28 and Acts 21:10).

It was one such ‘word from God’ that called for Barnabas and Paul to be ‘set apart’ for God for the work to which He was calling them.

On this occasion, while the church were fasting and praying, they continued in prayer to ‘affirm’ that this was in fact a ‘word from God’.

Barnabas and Paul ministered in Antioch and were called by the Spirit to move out from this church setting to take the Gospel to the Roman world.

The word ‘ministered’ in Scripture describes serving within leadership in the church.

It is an act of worship to God, and consists of offering spiritual sacrifices to Him, including prayer, oversight of the flock, plus preaching and teaching the Word.

Until now, Jerusalem had been the centre of ministry, and Peter had been the key apostle.

But from this point on, Antioch in Syria would become the new centre (Acts 11:19ff), and Paul the centre of focus.

The Gospel was on the move!

God had already called Paul to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 21:17–21), and now He summoned Barnabas to labour alongside him.

The church confirmed their calling, commissioned the men, and sent them out.

It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, working through the local church, to equip and enlist believers to go out and serve.

Barnabas and Paul took John Mark with them as their assistant.

He was a cousin to Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and his mother’s home in Jerusalem was a gathering place for the believers, as we saw last week (Acts 12:12).

It is likely that it was Peter who led John Mark to faith in Christ (1 Peter 5:13).

John Mark no doubt helped Barnabas and Paul in numerous ways, relieving them of tasks and details that would have interfered with their important ministry of the Word.

It seemed logical to go first to Cyprus, for this was the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36).

From the very beginning Paul adopts a method which he followed through his entire ministry.

Although he was called to reach out to the Gentiles, he always used the Jewish synagogue as the springboard from which he preached the gospel.

Luke gives us no details of the ministry in Salamis, the great commercial centre at the east end of the island.

The men then moved ninety miles to Paphos on the west end of the island, and there they met their first opposition.

Paphos was the capital of Cyprus, and the chief Roman official there was Sergius Paulus, “an understanding man” who wanted to hear the Word of God.

Barnabas and Paul were opposed by a false prophet named Bar-Jesus which means “Son of Jesus or Joshua” and his name showed that he was from a Jewish background.

It is very unusual to find a Jewish false prophet and sorcerer, for the Jews traditionally shunned such demonic activities.

This event is an illustration of the lesson that Jesus taught in the Parable of the Tares (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43): wherever the Lord sows His true children (the wheat), Satan comes along and sows a counterfeit (the tares), a child of the devil.

Paul recognized that Elymas was a child of the devil (John 8:44), and he inflicted blindness on the false prophet as a judgment upon him.

This miracle was also evidence to Sergius Paulus that Paul and Barnabas were servants of the true God and preached the true message of salvation (Heb. 2:4).

The Roman official believed and was saved.

Acts 13:9 is the first place you find the familiar name Paul in the New Testament.

It was from here that Barnabas and Paul then set off on the rest of this ‘Missionary journey’ as they went from one town to another, preaching the gospel and seeing churches formed and established.

During this Missionary Journey we see the change in emphasis – first it was ‘Barnabas and Paul’ – now it has become ‘Paul and Barnabas’

We read in Acts 13:13 that John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.

This was to cause a bit of a problem for Barnabas and Paul and it eventually saw the two of them split up and form new ‘teams’ and go in different directions.

Barnabas took John Mark with him and set off for Cyprus once more, while Paul took Silas with him and revisited some of the churches set up on his first Missionary Journey.

From this point on, the book of Acts follows Paul and Silas as they set off on further Missionary journeys.

As far as we can see the ‘Thought for the week’ will come to an end as we look to get back into the ‘regular’ pattern of worship.

However, there will be one more ‘Thought for the week’ next week as we take one further look at Paul on his Missionary journeys.

Until that time, we reflect on just how much has changed since that first ‘Christian’ Pentecost when God poured out His Holy Spirit upon His church.

He promised to equip His church as it began in those early days, but it was a promise to equip His church in EVERY generation – even our own.

The church was not so much made up of ‘wonder’ saints but made up of ordinary folk just like you and me.

As we move forward into whatever our ‘future’ might be, let’s pray that we will actually ‘move forward’, and that we will ‘move forward with the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us for our ministry in this area in our day’.

The early church had its problems, just as we do, and it also had its successes, but as a church it faced both with prayer and fasting as they waited upon God to lead and direct them – may we learn to do the same.

And so, now we turn to a time of Prayer followed by a song to sing along to together.

Prayer time – Let us pray

Heavenly Father, we pray for Your church throughout the world and, in particular, that part of Your church to which You have called us to belong here in the parishes of Gunton, Hopton, and Corton.

You gave to the first Disciples the gift of faith in Jesus Your Son and through the infilling of Your Holy Spirit You gave them a zeal to share Your love and care.

Through their proclamations the church grew as many came to faith and trusted Christ as Saviour.

Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us a burning zeal in our day to see Your church grow – help us to reach out into our community to proclaim that same Gospel message

Lord in your Mercy:  Hear our Prayer

We pray for our Parishes in these difficult days and ask You to heal our internal divisions and bring a loving unity to our church community. 

Touch our hearts afresh with Your love and grace that we may show Your care and concern for one another.

Help us to be flexible and adaptable in all our relationships and also capable of accepting constructive comments as we seek to grown together into the future that you want for us.

            Lord in your Mercy:  Hear our Prayer

We pray that there will be a person of your choice who will eventually be led to join us – may they be a person filled with the Holy Spirit and open to your leading as together we seek to make Christ known in our neighbourhood.

We pray for our bishops, that they may be guided by Your word and lead us by the grace of the Holy Spirit in way that brings glory to Your name.

           Lord in your Mercy:  Hear our Prayer

Heavenly Father we pray for all who, like the apostles, are persecuted for their faith and we ask You to surround them with Your love and support.

Help us, that we might be faithful when we are ridiculed or insulted for declaring our faith.

            Lord in your Mercy:  Hear our Prayer

Heavenly Father we pray for the sick and the suffering, especially those undergoing Hospital treatment and surgery and we pray especially for those who have contracted the Corona Virus. 

We pray for all doctors, nurses and other front-line workers at this time and pray for them a strength and courage beyond their natural abilities – to bring help and care to those among whom they work.

            Lord in your Mercy:  Hear our Prayer

Heavenly Father we pray for our government and the Prime Minister as they continue to make decisions that affect the lives of so many people.

Give them wisdom, strength and courage as they seek the best for our country in this difficult time.

            Lord in your Mercy:  Hear our Prayer

Heavenly Father we rejoice in the call to belong to Your Son, to believe in the Gospel, and to proclaim Your love.

Merciful Father: Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

And now we turn to another song – one for those in church to listen to and reflect upon – and one for those at home to sing along to.

Song  In Christ alone

In Christ alone - who took on flesh,

fullness of God in helpless babe!

This gift of love and righteousness,

scorned by the ones He came to save;

till on that cross as Jesus died,

the wrath of God was satisfied -

for every sin on Him was laid;

here in the death of Christ I live.

 

There in the ground His body lay,

light of the world by darkness slain;

then bursting forth in glorious day

up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory

sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,

for I am His and He is mine -

bought with the precious blood of Christ.

 

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

this is the power of Christ in me;

from life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

can ever pluck me from His hand;

till He returns or calls me home,

here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!

 

 


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